Vote by Nhampton Commissioners opens door for slaughterhouse

Published 10:01 am Monday, October 17, 2016

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners voted to amend the zoning ordinance at their latest meeting to allow slaughterhouses in Agricultural Residential (AR) zoning districts if specific criteria are met.

The board held a public hearing on the slaughterhouse issue, which was recommended for approval by the county Planning Board.

No citizens spoke for or against the Planning Board’s recommendation.

The issue was inconclusive back in November 2015 when Titus Miller, who has a farm and a deer processing facility north of Seaboard on Big John’s Store Road, was seeking to amend the zoning ordinance allowing slaughterhouses only on land zoned Heavy Industrial (HI), which his is not.

Slaughterhouses were banned from AR areas of Northampton County until the recent vote by the commissioners.

William Flynn, the county’s planning and zoning director, back in November presented the case for keeping the zoning ordinance as it was originally written because he said changing it to allow slaughterhouses on AR could result in a large-scale operation moving into the county with inadequate water and sewage treatment.

He presented the Planning Board’s amendments at the Oct. 3 meeting of the commissioners.

Miller’s deer processing plant was built to handle the slaughtering of locally grown beef, pork and other animals raised by farmers. But because he was not allowed to slaughter animals on site, his operation was not as successful as it could have been.

At the Oct. 3 meeting, Flynn reminded the commissioners that this amendment is for the entire county, not a specific operation. Miller’s original request to amend the Zoning Ordinance merely pointed out a change that the county needed to rectify.

For example, part of the ordinance that was changed called for stringent buffer requirements which Miller’s operation already met.

The new ordinance says: “Live animals transported to the premises for processing shall be penned in facilities constructed, operated and maintained in accordance with standards established and/or promulgated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and, not more than forty (40) animals in cumulative total shall be penned on the premises during any single week ( beginning Sunday and ending Saturday). Pen facilities shall be located in the rear of the building containing the custom slaughter facility.”

The ordinance further says: “Domestic Wastewater must be disposed of in a Municipal or Community Sewer System, or in an Approved On-Site System. Evidence of such must be demonstrated by a permit, letter of intent or a letter of compliance from the appropriate governing body.”

Neither the public nor the commissioners spoke during the public hearing.

The board moved back into regular session and those present (Commissioner Virginia Spruill was absent) all voted for the Planning Board’s recommendations.

Newsome said it’s “a pristine, efficient operation” that would allow locals to know where their meat comes from and how it is raised.

Supporters speaking in favor Miller’s request for zoning change in November 2015 cited the need for local slaughterhouse.

“We can grow a great, healthy product right here,” Todd Newsome said. “I fully support Mr. Miller. There is no waste, no smell and there is a need for this facility.”

David Iles of the Lake Gaston area said he raises free-range pork and grass-fed beef. He said Miller’s facility is clean, professionally run and hauls animals for over 100 miles.

The push for locally raised food is a key for many buyers.